Winchester parkrun and 15 miles – restraint and control

This weekend was a weekend of two halves I feel, weather-wise. Saturday was beautiful and then Sunday… ehhh less so.

On Saturday morning Kyle and I headed to Winchester to meet up with the lovely Emma. We’ve become good friends since I met her when I went to New York last year.

She’s also going to Chicago and doing the marathon this year. So we headed to do Winchester parkrun with her and then have some brunch. Happily parkrun was actually on this time as the last time we tried to do this it was cancelled.

It was a beautifully sunny day. I’ve done Winchester parkrun before, but at the end of running there from Hedge End with a group of my running club and we managed 18 miles in the end. So I wasn’t quite as fresh!

The course is a two lapper, which is always good, and mostly on grass. It’s flat and scenic and the loops not too sharp – if you were aiming for a good time it’s a good course to go for.

As I was planning a long run the next day I wasn’t aiming for anything more than a gentle plod. I haven’t run twice in a row for many weeks now, but as I was feeling so much better and my runs were going well I decided it was time to get back into my usual routine.

We saw Emma, listened to the run briefing (which was so hard to hear over the crowd of people and the woman just using her voice) and then headed to the start.

Kyle, not being quite as fragile as me right now, decided to go a bit faster so headed closer to the front. As we started I remember just how much I enjoyed parkruns when I wasn’t blasting out for a time. I mean it’s the story of my running life to be honest, anything short and fast is just not my thing.

It was really confident boosting though to realise that running around 8 minute miles felt like a breeze. My breathing was easy, I felt strong in my legs and like I could run for miles. As much as I was tempted to speed up significantly at the end (which I’m sure would not have felt easy or quite as enjoyable!) I managed to just sail through to the finish, unbothered by anyone zooming past me in a sprint finish. Control, Anna, CONTROL.

Kyle managed just over 21 minutes (holding himself back a little as he was conscious of his own long run the next day) and I got 23:30. Then we headed for brunch at Josie’s.

Kyle and I have been to Josie’s in Bishop Waltham before but not this one. It was a 20 minute wait for a table, which was fine. It just showed how popular it was! My stomach definitely kicked into gear though watching all the food coming out.

I managed to avoid the temptation of a fry-up and ordered mushrooms, egg and feta on toast instead. I’m glad I went for a change because this was so tasty! And super filling, surprisingly.

I mean it did also help that I shared a stack of maple pancakes with egg, sausage and bacon with Kyle as well. Details, details.

The pancakes here are super sweet, thick and incredible tasty. I’m not personally a huge pancake fan but sharing a portion hit the spot (I can only share food if I know I have more than enough!).

After having a lovely catch up with Emma we parted ways.

The next morning Kyle and I were up at 8.30am to head out for a long run. My plan was to run 15 miles and Kyle was to run 12. I was fully prepared to run less miles though if things felt off. I’m being suuuuuper cautious. We walked Alfie first and I started feeling nervous.

I always feel so nervous now before running. It’s ridiculous I know, but the memory of the injury and the fear of it coming back definitely haunts my running at the moment. But I needn’t have worried because as soon as I started running I felt it all slot into place and I was feeling good.

It was tipping it down though so we were wet pretty much from the get out. To be honest, I didn’t really mind though. It was fairly warm and it kept us nice and cool. The only annoying moments were if you stepped in a big puddle and soaked your trainer and my pony tail sticking to my back. But otherwise it was a lovely pleasant run. We did feel like quite the super heroes running with people looking at us like we were mad.

We passed a couple of other runners and swapped smug knowing nods – we are no fair weather runners. We are warriors.

We got to eight miles, where Kyle was to head back, making up his 12 miles, and I was to head onwards further to get my 15 miles. We stopped briefly for a quick photo and I waved goodbye and popped my podcast in.

A jokey photo Kyle took of me running off

As much as I love running with Kyle I do really enjoy running on my own. Just managing my pace however I fancy, zoning out and listening to a podcast. I will never get sick of it. I just love it so much.

The rain came and went a bit and I found myself getting stronger as the run carried on. There was an annoying long road that I ran down where cars hurtled through puddles, splashing me time and time again, but really I was so wet by then it didn’t matter.

My hamstring did niggle a bit towards the end, but manageably so, so nothing to worry about. I felt like this run was a lot more controlled and not quite as tough as the week’s before 15 miles. I sensibly didn’t blast the final miles which helped! So when I finished I didn’t feel quite as drained or broken.

The hot shower at home was so good. And the hot porridge and cup of tea went down a treat. Some things will never get old for me. Long running, porridge, tea… it just makes me a very content Anna!

So three weeks until Chicago now. I feel good… I mean of course I wish I had a few more week’s training under my Flipbelt and I hope the hamstring niggle eventually goes away completely but beggars can’t be choosers.

If I’m sensible in the lead-up and sensible on the day, I should be OK (TOUCH WOOD!!). I have no plans to blast the run or push myself too hard. I have nothing to gain from that. I want to be running after Chicago too and I don’t want to reignite any issues. I just want to gently and quietly tick this marathon off and then continue to run without issue afterwards. That to me sounds like perfection.

Do you enjoy running in the rain?

What’s your favourite pancake topper?

A Winchester run and brunch and my game plan

The weekend just gone my lovely friend, Emma, and I had planned to meet up and do the Winchester parkrun followed by brunch.

She lives in Reading and we wanted a location that would be nice and relatively half-way. After some deliberation we decided on Winchester because, though it’s not really half-way, it is a lovely place and there were a couple of different brunch spots that took our fancy.

Unfortunately as we got closer to the weekend we realised Winchester parkrun had been cancelled. Ah, that scuppered that plan! After to’ing and fro’ing we decided to still go but do our own run together instead. Winchester is a beautiful place and has a nice river area to run along.

But before I get to Saturday, first Friday night. I just have to mention the meal we had at the Merchant House. Kyle and I went out with some friends from work. Happily I like the people I work with so it was a fun time. And the food was, as before, so good.

I went for the triple chicken burger with a portion of the loaded burnt end fries.

I actually felt a little embarrassed because last time I shared them with Kyle but this time I wanted my own portion… I liked them so much and I’m greedy. But the reason I was embarrassed was because one of my colleagues turned up and the first thing he said was “oof the portions here are huge so I’m going to give the fries a miss!”. Ahh here Anna goes again being the one who eats the most… but it was damn good and I enjoyed every bite.

Moments like these do make me feel like the most greedy person in the room because generally I do eat the most. It’s just that I enjoy food. I’m not stuffing myself to a ridiculous level, I do just think I have a big appetite and can eat a lot. But it does make me sometimes feel self-conscious when I eat more than everyone else…

But back to Saturday. I met with Emma at 9am and we ran four miles together.

The weather was lovely and sunny, but not too hot, and we kept the pace conversational so we could catch up. We regularly stay in touch through messages but it’s always nice to see someone in person.

She’s doing Chicago Marathon as well so it was nice to hear about her training – though it did give me major anxieties about my lack of training. This was the longest run I’d done for over 10 weeks. But no panic, no panic. I can only do what I can. At this point I’m still not 100% certain I will do Chicago…

Anyway the four miles were relatively comfortable, though there was a low lying discomfort it was still feeling better.

We then headed to the Dispensary Kitchen for some brunch.

I decided on the vegetarian breakfast after seeing it being whisked by me to another customer (it looked delicious!) and Emma went for poached eggs on avocado and toast. We shared a fruit and yogurt platter.

The food was delicious and looked gorgeous. I felt very saintly. It had halloumi, mushrooms, poached eggs, sourdough toast, avocado and homemade baked beans. The fruit platter was incredible as well. So much food! Just how I like it 😉

It was such a lovely meet-up 🙂

When I got home I decided on another two miles because I really wanted to get six for the day. My reasoning behind this was because I wanted to increase to eight miles the next week.

This is going to be a sink or swim lead-up to Chicago now. I just have to get into training. If my hamstring says “nope” and regresses then I know that Chicago isn’t going to happen. I’ve already taken over 10 weeks off of running. I’ve rehabbed as best as I can (I still am), I’ve avoided anything that aggravates things, I’ve seen two different physios and changed my trainers.

At this point I think I just have to try consistently running and see what happens. Obviously I’m going to be sensible and not suddenly go out and do a 20 miler or five runs a week. But I’d like to do three runs a week and one of those runs gradually building up. I won’t get higher than 16-17 miles before Chicago (if all goes well in my plan) but I’m absolutely fine by that.

I just want to run issue-free. Times and paces literally don’t matter to me right now. When I had this issue a few years ago after the Boston Marathon I managed to get back into long running with some persisting symptoms but otherwise it didn’t get worse.

So I know each run isn’t going to feel perfect or the discomfort entirely disappear just yet, but I can’t be frightened to run. As long as it doesn’t make it worse. That’s my rationale right now. I so hope this works!

How was your weekend?

Have you ever run through an injury?

Winchester Christmas markets and a come back?

Oh I feel super Christmassy now. I’ve bought all my presents (wrapping is yet to be done but, details!), sent all my Christmas cards, worn my Christmas jumper, had my Christmas parties and eaten a proper roast turkey meal with all the trimmings. Yes indeed, Christmas is in full force.

The one thing I’m holding back on is the Christmas playlist. That bad boy gets rocked out closer to the day to maximise the effect (or rather, not make me want to tear my hair out too quickly after the 17th time of hearing All I Want For Christmas…).

On Saturday I forwent parkrun for the Winchester Christmas markets instead. Though I obviously love parkrun and my shin/calf is feeling better, the Christmas markets was just too much of a lure. I stayed at my parent’s house on Friday night and we left super early to beat the traffic and rush (well, we left at 9.30am which isn’t that early but pretty good for us considering we’re the most disorganised family known to man).

We got the Park and Ride which is probably the best way to do it (£3 to park the car and then everyone gets a seat on the bus, pretty good and only 15 minutes away from the centre). It was busy already though!We headed straight to the Cathedral where the actual Christmas market was located and wandered around slowly looking at all the different stalls. There were lots of craft-style stalls selling handmade jewellery, scarfs, ornaments etc. There were also food-related stalls selling cheese, dried meats and fudge and then hot food stalls selling bacon rolls and burgers.

There were some quaint old fashioned style ones selling roasted chestnuts, caramelised nuts, hot mulled wine and toasted marshmallows as well which all smelt divine.

There was also an outdoor ice rink as well but we weren’t tempted! I got myself a Schokokuss (a ‘chocolate kiss’) which I’d had in Berlin and loved. There were lots of different flavours, like Baileys, chocolate orange, dark chocolate, but I went for a white chocolate almond and honey flavoured one. It was delicious. Basically it’s like a teacake – waffery base topped with marshmallow fluff covered in chocolate.I shared it with my mum and dad (who didn’t want one of their own as they’re trying to be healthy – who even are they??) and it was delicious.

Obviously got a photo of the nativity scene because…Christmas. Though the sign above kept reminding me of Madonna’s “Step into the groove” song. Not sure why I felt the need to touch Mary’s shoulder. Perhaps I just thought it made her feel more involved in the photo 😉

And then the pièce de résistance… hot churros dusted with sugar and melted chocolate.Despite seeing the churros being dipped into boiling oil and then quickly sprinkled in sugar and chocolate and handed to me within a one minute period I still felt the need to try one immediately. And then, delightfully caught on camera by my loving father, managed to look oh so attractive in my first scorching bite. The burning was worth it though, they were damn good (but if I had one tiny criticism it would be more chocolate was needed…but that’s just coming from a very greedy person).Overall, the markets were really good. There was a choir, it was very Christmassy and the food was good. But it was rather small and there were no gingerbread biscuits or more snacky items like that (again, this is from a greedy person). It doesn’t help that I’ve been to Berlin where their Christmas markets really do steal the show and I’m comparing them to that.

After doing a bit more shopping on the highstreet and general moseying around, we decided to have some lunch at a lovely Thai tapas restaurant called Koh Thai that, funnily enough, my physio had recommended to me.

Usually tapas is a bit of a pain for me as I don’t share food but as I was with company who understands that (i.e. my parents) so I knew I was in safe territory 😉 We all ordered a main (which wasn’t really a true main, but a slightly bigger small dish that you didn’t share) and then I ordered ribs strictly to be eaten only by me and some pork salad bites to share. My parents ordered chicken satay, crispy beef and fishcakes for sharing, because they’re reasonable human beings.My main was a chicken salad. Honestly the food was AMAZING. I’m actually not a huge Thai food fan (or Chinese fan either) but it was so good. The flavours were so fresh and tasty. However there were some very cheeky sneaky chillies in my salad and halfway through the meal I felt like my tongue had had a layer taken off the top of it and my eyes were streaming. The ribs were to die for though, obviously.

Though I wasn’t hugely hungry to start with because of said treats above, we left no prisoners behind. Though to be fair, the meal was pretty healthy for a meal out (quantity aside). Though my tummy was buzzing by the end.

I had planned to do a run that morning before we went to the markets but I decided to leave it until later so I could be a bit more warmed-up and also not have wasted a potential lie-in (though I woke up naturally ridiculously early anyway…*sighs*). As it took a while to amble back to the bus stop, then the car journey home my stomach was in a better shape to attempt a run. I was super nervous and fully dreading it. I decided to run from my parent’s house before I left to go home just because I had a better three mile route and I could moan like a brat to my parents if it went badly (aren’t I delightful?).

Expecting the worse as soon as I stated I was pleasantly surprised to feel fine. As the run continued I could feel an echo of the niggle so just concentrated on my form and breathing and tried not to over-think things. It didn’t get worse so I carried on. I actually felt great running in terms of fitness. I felt very comfortable and within myself, though I loathed to look at my watch, thinking I didn’t need to see how much speed I’d lost. So I was really chuffed to see a nice negative split.

And a good pace for having not run in a far number of weeks! Clearly my boring cardio sessions have maintained something. My calf/shin felt reasonably OK after the run – not better, not worse. Not perfect…so I’ll need to take this very slowly and one run at a time.I mean, Sod’s Law will be that my next run will be terrible and I’ll be back to square one, but hey let’s be positive. It’s Christmas after all 😉

Have you been to any Christmas markets this year?

What would you buy/eat from a Christmas market?

What’s your favourite cuisine?

A parkrun walk and pretending to be an adult

After a rather cold week, it was lovely to wake up Saturday morning to a reasonably warm day. It was a bit muggy but otherwise promised to be a good day so not too shabby!

I started the weekend off by going to Lee-On-Solent parkrun, which is just down the road from my parent’s house. My dad had said he would try another one and another one of my friends, Fiona, who’s just getting into running, said she’d go too so it was a nice change from Netley. It also meant a bit of a lie-in as I didn’t go and set-up and we didn’t need to leave until 8.25am (and even then we were a bit early).

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I also got to meet in person Rebecca who I’ve been chatting away to on Twitter. She’s so lovely and volunteers most week at Lee parkrun, having acquired an injury a few years ago that she can’t seem to find any cure for Sad smile She was lovely and very welcoming to both my dad and me, which definitely helped. My dad wasn’t quite as optimistic this week. He knew more people at Netley through association with me and knew they’d be less people at Lee who’d cheer “Anna’s dad” along. He was also aware he would be the last person finishing (having checked previous results). But anyway, Rebecca was lovely and bubbly and she promised to cheer us on.

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Despite it being Fiona’s first parkrun and her being relatively new to running (she’s another friend doing the Couch to 5K programme) she was really happy to be there. I was so impressed, she was so raring to go.

I had every intention of running parkrun and decided to take it nice and slowly (I even wore my HR monitor to make sure I was actually running VERY slowly – more on that another post). But as I went off I could feel my hamstring nagging me and it just didn’t feel good running. So I decided to play it safe and walk the parkrun with my dad. My hamstring has been feeling better but I had quite a deep massage on Thursday evening and was advised to let it settle for four days so really I was jumping the gun a bit.

My dad was quite chuffed I was going to walk with him and it was nice I had that option because I’m not sure I would have walked on my own.

IMG_1972Photo Credit: Nick MacBeath

Initially we weren’t the last people but eventually two powerwalking ladies overtook us on mile two which got my dad down a bit as they were nattering away and “not really trying” as my dad said Winking smile But he was out there, working hard and doing it so I’m proud nonetheless. The marshals, as usual, were very supportive and cheered us on and lots of people said well done – and even “well done, Anna’s dad” from some fellow Hedgies and Twitter friends.

My dad found it harder this time. I forget that 5k is actually a long way if you’re not used to the distance and for someone like my dad (no disrespect to him of course) who does hardly any exercise at all other than a few dog walks in the week, it’s a tough thing to do and he was only just getting over last week’s parkrun.

Because Lee parkrun is basically two out and backs we saw Fiona twice and both times she was smiling away and pushing on. I was seriously impressed and chuffed she seemed to be enjoying it.

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At the end my dad pushed on for a little jog to get to the finish. Everyone cheered him in.

IMG_1970Photo Credit: Nick MacBeath

And he wasn’t last. I was! Rebecca was lovely, saying he did so well and he was over the moon with himself again. We’d hoped to be faster than Netley but we weren’t sure… Frustratingly he was ONE SECOND slower than last week (51:12). Fiona did a very stellar time of 45:48 for her first parkrun. She was very pleased Smile 

For me it was my slowest parkrun, but I still very much enjoyed it. I couldn’t be more proud of my dad – OK he’s not running it or barely any of it at all, but he’s making a step towards getting healthy. He won’t go every week but he’ll be going again at some point for definite. He feels accomplished afterwards and it’s given him something to work towards on improving – a tangible measure of health that’s not just the scale.

My dad said had I not been walking with him he’d have slowed down as he had no one behind him he wanted to make sure he beat. He also found it mentally tough because the course is very flat and you can see where you’re going the whole time – rather than Netley which is a bit more interesting. Though Lee does have the sea…

My sister came over later and brought Ellie and Meg too, my little nieces. As it was such a lovely warm day I offered to take them to the park – ON MY OWN. Now if you’re a long-time reader you’ll know kids and me aren’t a great combination. I have no maternal bones in my body and I struggle to know what to do with children…how to talk to them, to look after them, etc. I’m just awkward. But they’re both at that age where I don’t need to change any nappies or carry them or anything life-sustaining. So I felt up to the job.

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After a quick pep talk and rundown of essential information from my sister (don’t go near fire, hold hands crossing the road, don’t let them eat weird things) I was good to go. It’s about a 10-15 minute walk to the park and it went swimmingly. At the park it was a lot easier as I was around more responsible adults and I basically just copied them. I followed Ellie and Meg around but stayed at a distance to let them play.

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I was quite impressed with the park. It had all the usual stuff along with a mini climbing wall and a trampoline! Obviously I had to have a go…

Trampoline

And Ellie amazed me by being able to use my phone to take photos. Well I suppose this is hardly surprising, kids as young as three seem to be able to use technology without any issues these days.

Sunday was another day spent with my family. I was a little sad not to be going to the Romsey Beer race as I’ve done it three years previously but it was the best thing. I didn’t fancy running it, I wasn’t able to race it and my hamstring probably needs more time. To be quite honest, I’m quite happy to give running more time off as I know when marathon training starts it’ll be full-speed ahead. I’m still going to the gym (which I did in the morning) but the desire for running is still pretty low at the moment in general.

Instead I went to Winchester for a little mosey round the shops, not realising a cycling event (CycleFest) and a race (Winchester Criterium) were taking place making it a little busy and tricky to actually swap sides of the road to see different shops….

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But it was fun to feel the racing atmosphere and see the cyclists whizzing by so fast. It was a lapped event so we were never short of seeing a lycra clad person zoom past us. And then we enjoyed a beautifully sunny BBQ.

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I made up some chicken skewers with my buffalo marinade which were just delicious! There were burgers, sausages, lamb kebabs, pork kebabs and steak. Delicious!

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How do you like to spend your time in the sun?

What’s your favourite thing for a BBQ?

Have you ever walked a race/parkrun before?